By Claire Matsunami – Palestine Monitor: March 06, 2014
This past Friday approximately 500 people gathered in the West Bank village of Bil’in to commemorate the 9-year anniversary of theirweekly Friday demonstrations.
Demonstrators began at the mosque and marched in a procession towards the wall surrounding the neighboring settlement of Modi’in Illit. People came from all over Palestine to participate, including many demonstrators from other villages participating in the popular struggle protests such as Nabi Saleh. It is worth noting that numbers were minimized due to the scores of people who chose to attend the public funeral of Moatazz Washaha.
Demonstrators reached the wall and broke open the gate meant to deter protesters from the rest of their land and the neighboring settlement. Several young Palestinian men scaled the wall to secure Palestinian flags at the top. The Israeli military responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades. Youths scattered throughout the hills, hurling stones over the wall towards the soldiers.
Settlers from the neighboring Jewish settlement gathered in the streets to watch the events unfold. Clashes lasted for a few hours, before the army came out and arrested two demonstrators: Sameh Tayseer Sa’adar and Kufr Nimeh.
Nine years of demonstrations
Bil’in is a small village located in the West Bank about half an hour north from Ramallah. The local economy relies primarily on olive trees for income. Citizens of Bil’in began staging these weekly protests in February of 2005 after Israel set up a separation barrier (then just a fence) that cut the residents of Bil’in off from 200 acres of their agricultural land. The settlement of Modi’in Ilit, illegal under international law, now sits on a portion of the village’s land.
Demonstrators adopted the method of popular resistance, choosing to partake in unarmed protests and coordinated action by demonstrating every Friday after prayer ended.
The Israeli military categorized (and continues to categorize) the weekly protests in Bil’in as “violent disturbances of the peace,” according to B’Tselem.
Under Military Order 101, created in 1967 when Israel began it’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, Palestinians in the occupied territories have no right to the freedom of expression or assembly. The order contravenes both Israeli and International law.
The demonstrations in Bil’in have been met with brutal repression by the Israeli military as well as the settlers. Siblings Bassem and Jawaher Abu Rahmah were killed in separate occasions during clashes with the Israeli military. Night rides are a common occurrence in the village; olive trees have been burned, homes are raided, children are taken to jail, and unarmed demonstrators are often subjected to beatings and bullets.
The protester’s persistence paid off in 2007 when Israel’s High Court of Justice found the fence to be illegal and ordered it to be removed. However, it took three years for the fence to be removed and the new wall is to be rebuilt (this time made of concrete) around the edges of the Modi’in Illit settlement. During the three-year wait, the settlement had expanded and thus the new barrier still prevents Bil’in residents from accessing 1,500 dunams (about half a square mile) of their land. Protests continue in attempt to regain the remaining land.
Rajai Abu Khalil, an activist at the demonstration, spoke to the Palestine Monitor, explaining that for him the protests are also about resisting the occupation. “The daily oppression, apartheid, segregation, discrimination and daily theft of lands for the benefits of the expansion of Israeli illegal settlements.”
Bil’in has become a rallying point for those involved in the popular resistance movement. Their non-violent methods and success in moving the barrier have served as an inspiration for many activists throughout the occupied territories. According to Abu Khalil, “The popular struggle has proven to be a very effective method and I believe it can bring change to the situation [in Palestine]”
The model of demonstration used in Bil’in is becoming increasingly popular as a form of resisting the occupation, notably in villages such as Nabi Saleh, Ni’lin, Kufr Qaddoum and Al-Maasara.
“For us it is so important to continue to encourage other people in other places to use this type of resistance. Through this action we will invite new people, Israeli, International, Palestinian together to give people support to continue their struggle… this is not just a vision for Bil’in, it is a vision for all of Palestine” said Popular Struggle Coordination Committee member and Bil’in leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah in an interview the Palestine Monitor.
Activists in Bil’in intend to continue their weekly demonstrations until they receive the rest of their land. For many, the struggle will continue until the occupation has ended entirely.
Abdallah Abu Rahmah expressed his most basic wish: “to have all of our land without any settlers, to live in peace and freedom and independence.”
Amnesty International has accused the Israeli authorities of bullying and judicial harassment of Nariman Tamimi, a Palestinian rights activist who was placed under partial house arrest today to prevent her taking part in peaceful protests while she awaits trial next week.
“This is an unrelenting campaign of harassment, the latest in a litany of human rights violations against Nariman Tamimi, her family, and her fellow villagers. These arbitrary restrictions should be lifted immediately and the charges should be dropped,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
Tamimi was arrested along with another activist Rana Hamadi on Friday 28 June, when villagers of Nabi Saleh walked towards a nearby spring in protest against the loss of their land. In 2009 Israeli settlers occupied the Al-Qaws spring near Nabi Saleh village where Tamimi lives. The illegal settlement now enjoys the protection of the military.
During the protest a soldier approached them waving a piece of paper and saying they could be arrested if they did not leave. When they tried to leave the area, more soldiers approached and arrested them. Both women were charged with being in a “closed military zone”.
Following their release on bail on Monday, the court has now put them under partial house arrest. They are not allowed to leave their family homes between 9am to 5pm on Fridays when the weekly protest takes place.
“They have been denied the basic human right to peacefully protest over land illegally seized by Israeli settlers, and the Israeli judiciary has used spurious legal tools to punish them for exercising their basic human right to peaceful protest,” said Philip Luther.
Speaking to Amnesty International following her arrest, Nariman Tamimi described how the two women were kept in conditions that included being held in leg-cuffs, detained overnight in a car, and held in a van carrying male Israeli prisoners who she said shouted verbal abuse at them and intimidated them physically.
Tamimi has already suffered previous arrests and raids on her home. Her husband Bassem has been jailed at least twice and held as a prisoner of conscience.
Her brother Rushdi Tamimi was shot in the back with live ammunition by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration last year. He died two days later in hospital. Video evidence shows that Israeli soldiers delayed his family’s attempts to take him to hospital.
“This shows the sustained brutality of the military and the Israeli authorities’ determination to target and harass those prepared to stand up for their rights. They use every tool in the box to intimidate activists and their families into silence,” said Philip Luther.
Since 2009, Israel has banned Palestinians, including landowners, from access to their spring and surrounding land while settlers enjoyed free access to the spring and were allowed to continue building in its vicinity.
The weekly protests are characterized by unnecessary and excessive use of force by the Israeli military, including live fire, rubber coated metal bullets, stun grenades thrown at protestors, pepper spray, batons, and the misuse of teargas.
Israeli forces have killed two protesters at Nabi Saleh, and have injured hundreds of others in the last four years. The subsequent military investigations have not met international standards of independence or impartiality.
Soldiers regularly raid the village, conducting house searches and arresting people including children late at night.
Nariman Tamimi and Rana Hamadi have been charged with being in a “closed military zone”. The trial is scheduled for Tuesday 9 July.
Video by Team Palestina
Video by Haitham Katib
Video by Thameenahusary
Mustafa Tamimi of Nabi Saleh died yesterday morning in Beilinson Hospital. There’s no debate over the cause of death: Tamimi was shot in the head at close range during the weekly demonstration in his village. The weapon: a high force, long range tear gas canister. According to a number of witnesses, backed up by photographs, the canister was fired point-blank, in total contravention of army regulations, from a distance of less than ten meters. The shooter: an Israeli soldier, from a Jeep.
Mustafa Tamimi is on the left. The weapon and the tear gas canister are circled in red (photo: Haim Scwarczenberg)
It’s not every day that the authorities come in possession of such a picture, which can supply more than 1,000 words in an indictment. The picture shows, firstly, the shot, an instant before the canister strikes him. This picture also shows that Tamimi may have thrown stones at the military Jeep, but it’s also clear that the Jeep is both closed and armored, and there is no doubt that Tamimi constitutes no danger to the lives of the soldiers – especially had they shut the door. In the picture you can also see the canister in the air, and the forbidden angle at which it’s flying toward Tamimi. You can’t see the shooter, but you can easily see that he was driving in military jeep S0661410. You can easily figure out who drove it by calling 02-5694211. From there it probably won’t be too hard to figure out who else was in the vehicle, and who opened the door to fire at Tamimi.
But this won’t happen. Unlike Bassem Tamimi – an organizer of the demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, who has been in jail since March and whose trial used testimonies taken from minors pressured by illegal interrogation methods – it’s safe to assume that the soldier who shot Mustafa Tamimi won’t be arrested in the near future. He won’t sit in jail while awaiting trial for murder, or manslaughter, or even negligent manslaughter. The past has proven to us that maybe, just maybe, if some organizations and dedicated attorneys invest in a prolonged military struggle, the soldier will be charged with firing against regulations, or illegal use of a weapon, or a moving violation like driving in a military vehicle with the door open. Maybe, just maybe, he will be convicted and demoted, and maybe he’ll even be fined or get a two-month sentence. Suspended sentence, of course. But maybe not.
I haven’t been to Nabi Saleh. They have been protesting there against the occupation for two and a half years, against the army-supported settler seizure of the village’s lands and spring. But I haven’t made it there. I have written on several occasions about the struggle there, but I didn’t join the demonstrations. I’ve been to Bil’in, Ni’lin, Ma’asara, Um Salmona, Jius, Hebron, Susya, Salfit, Azon, Jenin, Beit Ommar, Ramallah, Jericho, Walajeh, and more – but I haven’t been to Nabi Saleh.
The photographs of violence that have come out of Nabi Saleh simply scared me. The beatings, the rubber bullets from close range, the many wounded, and the army that roams the streets and fires tear gas into homes around the village – there’s nowhere to hide. Nobody had been killed until now, but it was just a matter of time. My friends told me that things had calmed down there lately, that it wasn’t like it had been at the beginning, that it was manageable, that you could fade back and find safety if you wanted to – I started to consider going.
More and more friends on Facebook are sharing the close-ups of Tamimi’s head after he was shot – covered in blood – and the video clips of his evacuation. I have no choice but to look at the photographs, and my body stiffens, freezes, shakes a bit. Before I was notified of Tamimi’s death, the photographs reminded me of Tristan Anderson, the American whose skull was shattered by a similar canister by similar soldiers in Ni’lin, in a demonstration at which I was present. I remembered the horror of that day, and the time that Anderson then spent in the hospital, hovering between life and death until he left in a wheelchair, in which he’ll probably remain for life. I remembered Matan Cohen, and Limor Goldstein, and their injuries, and my own light injuries. I remember Bassem and Jawaher Abu Rahma, who were killed in Bil’in, and 10-year-old Ahmed Moussa, who was killed by soldiers in another demonstration – and more.
It is simply shocking. Truly shocking. I look around, and I don’t see my society shocked. Not shocked at all of these people, or at the two head injures in Nabi Saleh yesterday, or at the two arrests in a peaceful demonstration in Ma’asara, which didn’t even get any coverage. I see the careful reports reading, “Palestinians claim that…” and the blind faith in the stance of the IDF Spokesperson. And the lack of shock shocks me even more. Especially shocking after all this are the reader comments, which claim that “they deserved it” or that describe the weekly popular demonstrations in the occupied territories, despite the repression and the injuries and the arrests and the terror and the death, as a “game,” or “theater,” or a “hangout of anarchists and bored Arabs.” And I hope that somehow, the UN Special Rapporteur on Free Speech, who spent Friday in Nabi Saleh when Tamimi was shot, sees and understands what is happening here, and maybe will manage to give us some assistance from outside. He, or the European consuls who are witnessing the trial of Bassem Tamimi, or diplomats who document the destruction of the caves and wells in the South Hebron Hills. But I have a hard time believing.
But – a shred of hope? Despite it all? Is there a source of encouragement, alongside all these killings, alongside the father of son who were killed in Gaza, and the death and bereavement that follows us everywhere thoughout this land of occupation and repression and war? Yes. The human spirit. It may be a cliché, but I believe in the words of Charlie Chaplin: We want to live by each other’s happiness — not by each other’s misery. We don’t give up on the eternal struggle for a future that is better, freer, more equal, more just, and in the long run, we achieve something. Capitalism and racism may incite us to selfishness and war, but ultimately, occupations collapse, empires fall, and humans continue to create and protest and build and love. And alongside such pictures of murder, this must be remembered.
Haggai Matar is an Israeli journalist and political activist, focusing mainly on the struggle against the occupation. He currently works at Zman Tel Aviv, the local supplement of Maariv newspaper, and at the independent Hebrew website MySay. This piece originally appeared on MySay. Translated by Noa Yachot.
By Silvia Boarini : Palestine Monitor: September 13, 2011
Looking at the images covering the walls at the Academy of Arts in Ramallah, one might not realize that these photos were all taken by young adults, between the ages of 14 and 17.
The young artists, all from the now-iconic village of Nabi Salih, were handed digital cameras and under the guidance of internationally renowned Palestinian photographer and video maker Issa Freij, sought to document a different aspect of their daily surroundings.
“I am Nabi Salih” manages to portray a side of the village that remains unknown even to the tireless Friday activist. More importantly, Ramer stresses, “it was a chance to do something other than just bringing more journalists or more NGOs to the village.”
Ramer’s relationship with Nabi Salih goes back a long way. She first arrived in Israel from the USA in 2006 as part of the Zionist Youth movement, but quickly decided she needed to explore both sides of the divide. She wanted to try and understand Palestine.
Her first port of call was Nabi Salih.
“The village has played a big part in educating me about the occupation,” she says.
Community leader Bassam Tamimi, currently imprisoned for participating in the Friday demonstrations, once told Ramer, “you came to remove the occupation from your mind.” And Ramer agrees. She says that is exactly what coming to Nabi Salih has done.
video by planxty sumoud
video by Tamimi Press